JF1360: Tools For Making A Landlord’s Life Easier with Jason Bangerter
Jason has built multiple companies, most of which were started out a need he had. The focus of this interview is on his company, and our sponsor, Rentler. Rentler allows landlords to perform most or all of the duties you need to do on a daily basis. Not only can you perform credit and background checks, collect rent, list your rentals, and more, Rentler can also help automate a lot of tasks so that you can do less of the things you don’t enjoy doing. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!
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Jason Bangerter Background:
- Entrepreneur and founder of multiple companies
- He loves to take the seed of a creative business idea and bring it to fruition.
- Started Rentler because he noticed that the rental industry served either tenants or landlords, but never both
- Based in Sandy, UT
- Say hi to him at http://tryrentler.com/bestever
- Best Ever Book: The Hard Thing About Hard Things
Join us and our online investor community: BestEverCommunity.com
Made Possible Because of Our Best Ever Sponsor (and guest today):
List and manage your property all from one platform with Rentler. Once listed you can: accept applications, screen tenants, accept payments and receive maintenance tickets all in one place – and all free for landlords. Go to tryrentler.com/bestever to get started today!
Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless, and this is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast. We only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any of that fluffy stuff. With us today, Jason Bangerter. How are you doing, Jason?
Jason Bangerter: Great!
Joe Fairless: I’m glad to hear it, and nice to have you on the show.
Joe Fairless: A little bit about Jason – he has started many companies, and one of which is Rentler. Rentler was started because he noticed that the rental industry served either tenants or landlords, but never both. He is based in Sandy, Utah. You can learn more about his company at Rentler.com. With that being said, Jason, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?
Jason Bangerter: Sure. Just a little background – I’ve been a designer for years, and started a company called Struck. We began just locally, and we became a national agency doing work for companies you recognize all over the globe, including companies like Nike and LEGO and BMW etc. Anyway, a few years ago I started two new companies, one of which is Rentler, and the other one is called NUVI. NUVI pulls in all of social media and analyzes it in real time. My real love is Rentler, so I turned the other company over and then focused all my efforts on Rentler.
Joe Fairless: With NUVI is there any overlap, or ways you leverage NUVI to help your other companies? Because a company that pulls in social media and analyzes it in real-time I imagine is helpful for any company.
Jason Bangerter: It is. We can use NUVI in a variety of ways, but one of the ways we can use it is to see how people are feeling about any particular topic, and then redesign our system based on what people are saying on social… Or we can pull in some of the smart people that have built NUVI, for instance my chief technology officer was with me at Struck and at NUVI, and co-founded NUVI and Rentler with me. So we’ve got some really smart people. For instance, it takes a lot to pull in all of social media and analyze it in real time.
Joe Fairless: First off, what is Rentler?
Jason Bangerter: Great question. Rentler is a place for smaller landlords to manage their properties, and really from the beginning of meeting a tenant to by the time they leave, and everything in between. It was a need that I had when I was flipping houses as an investor when I ran my other company, Struck, and flipped about maybe 25 homes… And when the music stopped in 2007, I had these houses and I thought “Crap, I’ve gotta rent them.”
I didn’t know anything about being a landlord. I started looking around, and I really needed these tools, and no one made them. So I as an entrepreneur said “Let’s just build it.” It’s what we did.
Joe Fairless: So meeting a tenant, to the time they leave, they are done with renting from you, you said everything in between. What are some of the main components of that?
Jason Bangerter: Great question. The first one would be obviously finding a tenant for your property. One thing I noticed out there was Craigslist was full of scams, there’s a lot of challenges with the scamming side of things; I didn’t like that. And then any listing site, once you rented your place, you couldn’t save your listing. That was one big thing. I got tired of reposting the same thing over and over and over. So we have a feature that you can turn on and off your listing and manage your listing from one place. That was one of the first things.
The next one that really bothered me was the on-boarding process. Actually, screening. And just a quick story – I had a tenant living in my property, and I just kind of looked at him, he looked like an honest guy; he drove a Porsche…
Joe Fairless: He got your real good, I sense it.
Jason Bangerter: Yeah, I come to find out he declared bankruptcy, and he came to me and said “Hey, I can’t make this month’s rent” and “I’m good for it.” It seemed like he was. I didn’t really know what I was doing at the time, to be frank; I’ve always had good tenants… Long story short, I couldn’t get him out of my property because I had a horrible lease I just downloaded online, that was full of holes.
Nine months later I finally got him out of my house. I lost a ton of money on that deal. It really stunk, but it reinforced my idea of starting Rentler, and I was in the middle of that problem when I was starting Rentler.
Joe Fairless: You had tons of inspiration at the time. [laughs]
Jason Bangerter: Yeah, bad inspiration, but nevertheless it got me going. Then the other features were things like background checks, as well as just the credit checks. So we’ve got some really robust things.
On the background checks, I also learned that not all background checks are created equal. People tout the idea of a national background check, and there’s counties like L.A. County, just a little county in California, that does not report their county records to the national background check… And there’s counties all over; it’s like Swiss cheese. So if someone was bad and they were living in a county in Wyoming, for instance, and then moved into your house, you have no idea if they were a baddie or a goodie. And the only way to find that out is by actually running county searches on that individual.
As someone who’s been screwed over before, I made that a mission to go out and get the best background checks possible. We’re able to get into county searches, even into the smaller counties.
Joe Fairless: Do you have to know the counties to search for, or you just hit a button and it just searches all of them?
Jason Bangerter: You hit a button and we do it all for you. Sometimes the counties are so backwards… There’s a few in Kentucky unfortunately where you have to actually send a runner to the county courthouse, and they physically look up the records.
Joe Fairless: Is that part of the hit the button process, or is that a special request?
Jason Bangerter: No, you hit the button and we go to work. The other side of it I learned too is credit checks are really regulated, and if I wanted to pull credit in the past, I would have to get my place inspected, and they had to make sure I had a fax machine, for some reason, and a lock on my filing cabinet. I’m not sure what that would do to stop someone, but… That was a requirement.
But the way we do it is we actually pull a credit check; the tenant actually pulls their own, and then shares it with the landlord, so we avoid some of those silly rules that have been put in place.
Joe Fairless: Got it.
Jason Bangerter: That was a big deal, and then it’s a soft pull on the tenant. So we do credit and background checks, and then we have forms – they’re not in every area right now, because we really research out who the lawyers are that we work with. If there’s any good lawyers out there listening to this podcast, I’m all ears… But we’ll vet you out and make sure that you’re good. But we publish those forms on our site, and allow landlords to access those.
The other things are paying rent online. Something as small as that – I remember myself going to great lengths to try to get all my tenants’ rent, and then I’d forget, because I was the COO of a major agency, and I’d be like “Crap, did that person pay me last month?” Then I’d look it up in my account and sure enough, they never did.
Then you have to go track down the rent. I had one tenant in particular – they for some reason didn’t know how money worked, and they wrote me a check and I had to rush to the bank that day, or I knew it would bounce. So I had to create those things in mind when we created our payment platform, and we take into account all that kind of stuff.
The major one is we do two-day funding on ACH, and normally it’s 5-7 business days, really. For some reason, our government takes a break during the weekends and holidays; their computers turn off for some [unintelligible [00:09:14].23] But in our system, we do two-day turnaround on ACH payments, which is absolutely phenomenal.
Joe Fairless: The finding a tenant for your property where you said you can turn on and off a listing, and you talked about Craigslist being pretty scammy or spammy – is the listing not on Craigslist, or is it just a different way of listing it on Craigslist?
Jason Bangerter: No, currently we do it on Rentler. We’re looking at a feature where you may be able to syndicate out to other listing services… But Rentler right now gets over 7 million views a month on our site…
Joe Fairless: Holy moly! How did you do that? When did you launch Rentler?
Jason Bangerter: We launched it six years ago, and we just get a lot of traffic.
Joe Fairless: How?
Jason Bangerter: How? That’s an ancient Chinese secret. [laughter] Actually, we did something kind of brilliant… It wasn’t necessarily my idea, but we partnered with a local NBC affiliate in Utah, and they outdid Craigslist on traffic. The company is called KSL (KSL.com), and if you look under their Home section, you’ll find that Rentler is embedded into that, and we actually power their Rental section.
Joe Fairless: Beautiful!
Jason Bangerter: Yeah, we started pulling all their traffic over. They just get so much traffic, and because of the relationship – it’s a great relationship, and we love working with them – we’ve been able to increase traffic on our end, and we just get just a ton of traffic. So right now we don’t syndicate out, but we’re looking at that as a possibility… For instance, a future feature we’re looking at is the ability to publish to Craigslist, so you’d be able to manage your listing for other sites from Rentler.
Joe Fairless: Now, you get millions of views a month, and the primary way it sounds like that you grew it to this point was through that partnership. I’m on that website, and it looks like that’s a local…
Jason Bangerter: It’s a local news site. It covers the whole state of Utah. Because of that, it grew outside of the state and we started growing incrementally in other states. We’re getting around 5,000-6,000 new users every month, and outside of the state. We’ve already saturated our own state of Utah. One in every three people that live in the state of Utah is a registered user on our site.
Joe Fairless: Holy cow!
Jason Bangerter: Yeah.
Joe Fairless: Wow, that’s incredibly impressive.
Jason Bangerter: Thanks. We wanted to make sure we dominate our own local market, and then move from there.
Joe Fairless: Do you work with people nationally, then?
Jason Bangerter: Yeah, right now our forms are still localized in our own market, but we’re starting to expand that into other markets. We don’t have anything published on that yet. My whole strategy, like building the agency for instance in the past, and building from a local agency to a national agency, working with some of the biggest brands, we focused on local, and then we expanded from there, and that’s the exact strategy we’ve employed here.
We’ve already met our goals and exceeded them in our own state, and we’re in the process of really starting to aggressively expand outside of our local market. We’ve got clients in every state at this point. It’s fun to hear from them, and hear how they found us and what they’re doing with our tool.
Joe Fairless: How do you make money?
Jason Bangerter: That’s a great question. There’s different revenue sources, but in the state of Utah we do charge to list; a part of that is we have a dominant presence here… But outside we don’t. So that’s one way we’re able to take and run a large company, we’re able to pull in that revenue in the local market, and we bring a lot of value to those customers. We work with some of the largest property management companies around: Greystar, Alliance, AMC… There’s a lot of companies we work with here, and we work with very closely with that on the multifamily side. But a real focus is on the smaller 50-units and below, to build that property management software.
Joe Fairless: So the number one revenue source is Utah landlords ads for listing on your website?
Jason Bangerter: Right now that definitely is, and then the number two would be payments, and also screenings. With screenings, the landlord has the ability to choose if they’re gonna pay for it, or if they’re gonna ask their tenant to pay for it.
Another big feature — because I’m all about bringing value to a customer, not just taking… And one big thing is I noticed tenants were filling out the same information over and over again, so we made a universal application, and when you create a listing, you can actually apply one time, and then send it to multiple places.
Some of those places may require screening, some may not… But that’s why we split the application, the screening apart.
Joe Fairless: You’ve been around for six years… What are some majors things you can think of that’s evolved since you founded it?
Jason Bangerter: Oh, boy… Well, we’ve learned a lot of lessons with scammers.
Joe Fairless: What was happening?
Jason Bangerter: One of the things we discovered was — you’ve got the normal scam, which is someone steals the images from some website out there (Craigslist, for instance), and then calls it their own… And we work really hard to avoid that. We’ve got some proprietary ways to do that, that we share with other companies like Amazon etc., and we’re able to identify scammers pretty rapidly… And we do some things that I’m not gonna reveal, but we do some things that really stop scammers pretty quickly.
Joe Fairless: Go get ’em.
Jason Bangerter: Yeah, it’s one of my favorite missions, to stop scammers. It’s one thing that’s evolved. As far as scamming goes on, payments – we were a little naive when we started, and if you know anything about ACH, there’s this thing called the float. What happens is the tenant would put their payment out there, and then we would pay the landlord before the tenant got their account charged… So we were floating the money to the landlord. What was happening was a scammer would come along and pretend to be both landlord and tenant, and then steal the money and then poof.
So we’ve gotten really wise to that, and once that happened once or twice, we’ve completely stopped that. We haven’t had a scam on that side in years. We’re very cautious about how we handle that.
So that’s one way that’s really changed, is learning — because every time you do something, the scammers are out there thinking about new ways to scam, so we’ve gotta be on top of our game and we’ve got a great fraud team that monitors everything we do.
Joe Fairless: Anything from an offering standpoint that maybe you offered previously that you thought landlords or tenants would really want, that you found out “Oh, they don’t really care about that. Instead, let’s focus on XYZ”?
Jason Bangerter: Yeah, that’s a good question. I thought we would offer simple pricing. We went to $8/month, where you would just pay a subscription and you would get all of our services. But what we discovered was someone would use our services up front and cancel a couple months later… When in reality they just wanted to use different parts of our service, so we said “Well, let’s price it at the lowest possible price we can get away with, and allow them to just pick and choose what they wanna use. If they just wanna use this for screenings, that’s great. If they just wanna use this for listings, that’s great.
If they have under two listings, it’s free. If they wanna use us for screenings and charge their tenant, it’s free. If they wanna use payments and charge their tenants for the payments, it’s free.” So anything to help a landlord and a tenant kind of figure out their individual situation – that’s really important.
I’ll give you one more example, and that is applications. I went to school here in Utah, that’s how I ended up here; I went to BYU. And what would happen was you’d move into a house or an apartment with three other guys. At first, everything’s great, and then what would happen is someone would get married, or they’d move out, and if you signed the lease, you were screwed; they would be like “Hey, I’ll see you later”, and then the landlord would come after you.
So the way we built our applications and our payments is they target the individual. A landlord could manage each person in their unit if they have roommate situations. That was a major one doing that, and split payments. We’ve really made it so it’s so customizable to the individual situation… That’s one of the major things that makes it unique.
But going back to my design roots, I made it so all the heavy lifting is done below the surface, and to the consumer it looks like this easy to use site. Let’s just say it’s not easy, it’s very complex behind the scenes, but to the customer it’s this simple, easy to use site. But we’ve got a lot of stuff going on in the background.
Joe Fairless: Congratulations, you have unlimited amount of money and time to put towards Rentler. What’s a feature that doesn’t exist now that you would put in there?
Jason Bangerter: Great question. One thing I wanna do is build out a more robust maintenance system. Right now we have maintenance 1.0, where you can send in a trouble ticket, but I want the ability to do some additional things that will help landlords and tenants get that air conditioner fixed. If a landlord is busy and their tenant calls them or hits them up, they don’t necessarily have the time to go help that tenant, but the tenant really needs that air conditioner fixed, especially if he’s in the deep South, right?
By having a different way of thinking, we would like to even do things like allow the landlord if they wanted to put a limit in so the tenant doesn’t even have to ask, they just get it done themselves, and expediting that would be really helpful. I wanna build a lot of that out, that’s just one feature. I’ve got lots and lots of ideas… The problem is honing in and getting the best ideas really worked out first.
Joe Fairless: If you look back at challenges that have come up through the last six years, and if you were to be made aware of those challenges prior to starting Rentler, would you have still started it?
Jason Bangerter: Absolutely. It’s a needed product, it’s a needed thing. My team is just exceptional and we’ve helped literally 1.3 million people that use our system.
Joe Fairless: Based on your experience as an entrepreneur in the real estate industry, what is your best advice ever for real estate professionals?
Jason Bangerter: Wow… Best advice ever I would say is — you hear a lot about following your dreams, but the reality is it’s hard work, and you’ve gotta stick to it. If you have that thing you wanna accomplish, you’ve gotta not just set that goal, but stick to it every day. It’s a grind, but at the end it will be a reward.
Joe Fairless: We’re gonna do a lightning round. Are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?
Jason Bangerter: Yeah, let’s do it!
Joe Fairless: Alright, let’s do it. First, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.
Joe Fairless: Best ever book you’ve read?
Jason Bangerter: Best ever book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz.
Joe Fairless: What’s the best ever project that you’ve worked on? And if you say Rentler, cool, but maybe specifically within Rentler, a project that you worked on.
Jason Bangerter: I’ll make it a little bit more interesting – I’d say the best ever product I’ve ever worked on is we built an app for LEGO called LegoClick.com, and you could take a picture of someone and then turn them into a LEGO.
Joe Fairless: Oh, sign me up! I’m going to check that out. What’s a mistake you’ve made in business on something?
Jason Bangerter: A mistake I’ve made in business – I’ve made a few bad hires, and not making the changes fast enough.
Joe Fairless: If you were to think about the characteristics of the individuals you fired, if presented a situation in the future where you come across an individual like that, what are those characteristics?
Jason Bangerter: Those characteristics are more of how the team sees that individual, and they don’t see [unintelligible [00:22:23].29] He was the leader and needed to make a choice: what’s more important – the overall health of the team, or trying to help that individual along? And I’ve learned that each situation is unique, but you have to really take into account your A players and not necessarily always focus on B players. Sometimes you have to make hard choices, and that’s one way you have to do it.
Joe Fairless: Best ever way you like to give back?
Jason Bangerter: I give away 10% of my income.
Joe Fairless: And how can the Best Ever listeners learn more about your company and try Rentler?
Jason Bangerter: They can go to rentler.com, and they can go to /bestever, and we’ve got a page set up for Best Ever listeners to check out everything our company works on and what our services are.
Joe Fairless: Excellent. So let’s see, the URL — is it TryRentler?
Jason Bangerter: That’s what it is.
Joe Fairless: There it is, yeah. There we go. It’s TryRentler.com/bestever, or if you’re lazy, just go to rentler.com; that’s fine, too.
Well, thank you so much for being on the show, Jason. I’m grateful that I’ve gotten to know more about your business. Prior to our conversation, obviously, Rentler is a sponsor of this podcast, and I only bring in sponsors whose business I wholeheartedly believe in, and holy cow, you all are providing a tremendous solution for real estate investors and prospective residents…
So thanks for being on the show, thanks for talking about the evolution of your company, how you make money, and where you see it going with new features, as well as how it has evolved up until this point, some of the things that you all have worked through… As real estate investors, we’re entrepreneurs, and this is some really interesting stuff, let alone learning more about a real estate investing company that has launched six years ago and is incredibly successful…
So thanks for being on the show. I hope you have a best ever day, and we’ll talk to you soon.
Jason Bangerter: Thank you.